Founded by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is held every April to celebrate poetry.
However, if you suffer from a little bit of poetry phobia, let me tell you what changed my perspective on teaching poetry. I read a book—Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages by Lucy Calkins—and a spark was lit. The book is intended for grades K–2, but I highly recommend it as a springboard for upper grades, as well. Among other things, this book opened my mind to free verse!
The quote, “Poets see the world in different, fresh, and unusual ways” was a clear summation for children and for me as a teacher. In the book, Lucy Calkins has children compare the way a scientist sees a leaf as opposed to the way a poet would! Visit this website to see examples from the book.
Children love having the freedom to be creative and use poetic devices such as metaphors and personification. After showing my students examples of free verse poetry using metaphors, I was truly amazed at how much they loved it and couldn’t wait to get started writing their own poetry. I was also amazed at how prolific all of my students became in filling up their poetry journals.
Here are some great poetry examples to use for modeling:
Free verse poems like these by Zoë Ryder White are also good examples:
The Pencil Sharpener
I think there are a hundred bees
inside the pencil sharpener
and they buzz
until my point
is the sky
for the classroom.
Encourage students to take ordinary things around the classroom or school, look at them in different ways, and write phrases!
A blank page is like a playground for imagination
My friend is sunshine, brightening my day
An autobiographical poem is a popular and easy idea for students that is also perfect for open house:
Directions: Write a poem about yourself using this form or another poetry form.
Line 1: __ (Your name)
Line 2: _, _, _ (3 personal characteristics or physical traits) (do you know what these symbols are?)
Line 3: Brother or sister of __ (or son/daughter of)
Line 4: Who loves __, __, and __ (3 people, things, or ideas)
Line 5: Who feels __ about __ (1 emotion about 1 thing)
Line 6: Who needs __, __, and __ (3 things you need)
Line 7: Who gives __, __, and __ (3 objects you share)
Line 8: Who fears __, __, and __ (3 items)
Line 9: Who’d like to see __ (1 place or person)
Line 10: Who dreams of __ (1 item or idea)
Line 11: A student of __ (your school or teacher’s name)
Line 12: __ (Nickname or repeat your first name)
Poetry idea: Shape Poems
Remember that reading and interpreting the work of great poets, modeling, charting descriptive words and ideas, and allowing students the freedom to be creative will result in a lifelong love of poetry!
Do you have poetry lesson ideas for National Poetry Month? Please share them with us.
Alice Evans is a forty-year veteran National Board Certified elementary classroom teacher and a published author. She recently retired from the San Diego Unified School District and has published a children’s chapter book entitled Torrey Pines Summer.